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Finding the Perfect Fit: Kristen LaFontaine '03
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Kristen LaFontaine ’03 has taken her passion and run with it. A former Bentley soccer player and member of the track team, she found her niche in a sports-related field.
In 2004, the Marketing major joined athletics wear maker Saucony as a product testing coordinator. Charged with ensuring fit and comfort of running shoes, she gathered feedback from testers and worked closely with brand partners in design, development and marketing.
With success came a promotion. LaFontaine became a product testing technician on two other brands owned by new parent company Stride Rite: Sperry Top-Siders and Keds. But over time, the fit didn’t seem quite right.
“I missed working on athletic shoes,” she says. “I’ve been an athlete all my life and I enjoy working on sports-related products.”
The search for a new playing field landed LaFontaine at Massachusetts-based Converse in April 2010.
“Being a Bentley alumna was a big part of my appeal,” she says. “The Converse product testing team had just begun a relationship with the university, to conduct fit and wear trials.”
As a product testing analyst, LaFontaine immediately began working with Bentley’s Center for Marketing Technology (CMT) to collect student feedback – particularly on shoe comfort and performance during daily use. She then shared the data with Converse developers.
“Students are a target demographic for many of our product lines, so the information we get is very useful in our decision-making process,” says LaFontaine, noting that Converse also conducts research in its own lab and through meetings with athletes.
“I get the opportunity to talk to basketball players for our basketball products, skateboarders for the skate products, and college students for our casual footwear,” she says. “Interacting with all these different people keeps the job fun and interesting.”
In the spring 2011 semester, Converse has partnered with Bentley for a marketing course focused on a new product line.
“In addition to solving a business challenge for Converse, we hope that the course will pique student interest in the footwear industry and product development in general,” observes LaFontaine. “My first exposure to product development was working with real companies in general business and marketing courses at Bentley.
“I enjoy being part of the product creation process. It’s pretty cool to see a shoe on the shelf and know you played a role in putting it there.”
Alison Davis-Blake, the former business school dean at the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, was inaugurated as the eighth president of Bentley University in a ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the extended Bentley community.